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Posted: October 25, 2007

Spousal Caregiving

What Readers Say About Their ?Labor of Love?

Bill Andrew

Occasionally, readers will respond to one of my columns that touches them. In this column, I would like to share a few recent responses that tell me I am reaching those in need through my personal experience as a spousal caregiver for my wife of 56 years, Carol, who is afflicted with late stage Alzheimer's disease. We have been on this long, lonely journey for over 13 years now with no end in sight.

The first response was from Pat regarding my September 6 posting entitled A Labor of Love: 'Labor Day' is Every Day:

"Hello, Bill. My name is Pat and I am in a similar position. Only, my wife is paralyzed from the waist down. So what you are saying doesn't just happen to people who have Alzheimer's disease. It happens to other people as well.

Although my wife has the capacity to think and do some things by herself, it is almost the same as your situation -- and I have been doing this for 7 years now. And she tells me it is out of love that I do this -- and so I say to myself, yes, it is.

But I like your saying better -- "labor of love!" And we don't get paid for this either; if we did, I would be rich. In closing, I just wanted you to know that it happens to loved ones with illnesses and disabilities other than Alzheimer's. Thank you. Patrick T."

Yes, Pat, I realize that this "labor of love" is not unique to caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer's disease. That is simply the perspective from which I write because of my personal 13-year experience. I expect that many other readers had the same thoughts that their personal experience with their loved one was truly a "labor of love."

If only other folks in our respective communities would come to understand the trials and tribulations that we spousal caregivers go through -- wouldn't that be wonderful? Our journeys are "long and lonely" for the most part; community support would help many of us to endure that "labor of love."

The second response to the "Labor of Love" column comes from Esther:

"When I read your column on our "labor of love," I felt like you had walked with me through a day and a night. I am the spousal caregiver for my husband of 66 years -- he is 87 and I am 85 -- who has Alzheimer's disease.

A retired civil engineer, he still carries much of that stuff in his mind. Yet, he often messes his diapers and falls out of bed, injuring his ribs and then the usual trip to the hospital and rehab. When he comes home, he repeats the routine of falling out of bed and messing his diaper, refusing food, etc. My family refuses to accept his condition and so when I read a story such as you are living, I feel that someone really understands our 24/7 job. Thank you so much. Esther S."

Thank you, Esther, for your kind comments. As you and I both know, unless someone has been a 24/7 caregiver for a loved one, they can not really know what that feels like and what it really entails. Yes, lots of daily issues -- over and over again. And, yes -- lots and lots and lots of patience as well. In many cases, family members are in denial since "that can not be happening to my father (or mother)" and they refuse to accept his condition and the problems facing the caregiver each and every day. Hopefully, you are receiving support from your family members, despite their denial of your husband's condition. God bless you.

The third response is from Tonisha who has a whole different perspective on the "Labor of Love" column:

"Hi. I just came across your Labor Day 2007 article today. I am not sure how I got on the mailing list for the Caregiver's Home Companion. I just wanted to say that I am so inspired by your "labor of love." I am only 28 and never want to think about myself or my husband or any other family member in that situation. But if I ever am, I pray that God will help me to approach it with the same wisdom and compassion that He has blessed you with. I am sure it is not easy, but just be encouraged and blessed. I will keep you in my prayers. God bless. Tonisha W."

Thank you, Tonisha, for taking the time to respond to the column. There is hope for all of us if more young people, such as yourself, have the attitude that you obviously have. Our marriage vows mean so much to many of us in the "elder" generation. It is refreshing that someone from this current younger generation is also making that commitment.

My personal spousal caregiving experience is that prayer is the foundation of being a good caregiver. Without prayer, patience is often missing -- and it takes lots and lots and lots of patience to provide care for a loved one who is afflicted with a terminal illness (and Alzheimer's is considered a terminal illness since no cure currently exists.) May God bless you with the seeds of wisdom and compassion that you may need someday."

I would like to thank the above three readers for taking the time to write. Obviously, many other readers may also have had the same experience as these three did. If you would like to share those stories with other readers of this column, please e-mail me at ASKBill@caregivershome.com. I will include your stories in a future column to provide inspiration to other spousal caregivers. Please provide your full name and address. In the column, I will only use your first name and the initial of your last name as well as your city and state. Thank you.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

Ben Franklin (1706-90)


Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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© 2007 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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